Uruguay: Punta Del Este y Montevideo

On January 18th, Kieran returned from Patagonia (about 15 lbs lighter from hiking for 8 days) and I was determined to get him to a beach to relax and to feed him seven meals a day.

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The following morning, with tickets in hand, we took off from Buenos Aires to Punta Del Este (Uruguay) where my Argentinian family has a summer home.  Punta del Este is the riviera of Uruguay – it is a stunning beach front town which goes all the way up to Brazil.

An easy boat ride over via Buquebus (an hour and fifteen minutes) and then a four hour bus ride later, we arrived to Chalet La Carmen (home named after my great aunt).

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My 3rd cousin, Miguel (whom I have never met) was staying at the house as well with his friends for their summer vacation.  As soon as we arrived, Miguel took us out to show us around the local beach (Brava) and to go fishing.  Call us a lucky charm (I do travel with an Irishman), but these guys were never able to catch any fish, yet as soon as we arrived, they caught FIVE!!!!  As we watched the guys fish, a beautiful sunset appeared and that’s when I realized that I was going to REAAAAAAAAAALLY LOVE this place!

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My cousin, Miguel, on the right. Proud fishermen!

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That evening, we went to the port, where the guys got the fish cleaned which we enjoyed for days to come.  DISCLAIMER:  if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, this post may be rough to read as lots of fish and meat was consumed in 6 days.  

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Every night, for 6 days, we ate like kings (and a queen)!  The house has a housekeeper, Miriam, who is also an amazing cook and every night she would either make us pizza from scratch or asado (bbq) or ceviche or anything our hearts desired (the goal to bring Kieran back to his pre-Patagonia weight was reached as planned).IMG_3142 FullSizeRender 8

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Our nightly set-up!

Aside from bumming it on the beach most days, here are some of the things we did:

FOOD:

  • La Huella: this gem is located at the Jose Ignacio Beach and although the food is not amazing, it is definitely a place to sit and people watch (where the rich and famous hang and the plastic surgery and botox overload comes to show off the new look).  I HIGHLY recommend to come here even if just for a coffee.FullSizeRender 12FullSizeRender 20 IMG_3128
  • Crepas: great little spot for a quick snack at good prices (Nutella crepes galore)!
  • Deliss: a favorite burger/lunch spot that we loved so much that we went there twice in 6 days.

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Another reason to love Deliss cafe!

TO DO:

  • Museo de Casa Pueblo:  Unless you are super into this artist (we knew nothing of him until we got to this museum), this place is not worth it.  It is a mansion that he built over the last 30 years and it could have been cuter – tough critic, I know.

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  • Playa de Jose Ignacio:  as mentioned above, this is a nice beach to hang out at and the town is very cute with lots of cafes (should you forego La Huella) and pretty wall art.

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  • Playa Mansa: around 1pm, every day at Jose Ignacio beach, you suddenly see people disappear.  Turns out, it gets too windy at Jose Ignacio after noon and so everyone migrates about 5 minutes away to Playa Mansa.  This was by far my most favorite place in Punta Del Este.  Please note that there are a few Playa Mansa’s, but this one is located right down the street from Jose Ignacio.  It is perfection!  I just wish we found out about it sooner than our last day there…
  • Cabo Polonio Park: most people come here to stay overnight as this beach town is very far removed (can’t get there by car, you can only take the open top jeep/truck that takes about 20 people at a time) which is still lit by candlelight and they use generators to get power (although this seems to be quickly changing).  We only went for the day and enjoyed the beautiful untouched white sanded beaches that go on for miles.

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  • On the way to Cabo Polonio, we stopped in a town called La Paloma.  Nothing really to see, but WE HAD to stop there, just to take a picture with Miss Paloma.  Can you spot her?

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  • La Barra: a super cute little town which we adored thanks to the lovely beaches and delicious food (and the roller coaster bridge which made us giggle every time we drove in and out of town).  This place has a great vibe and from what we heard, a really good night life (grandma and grandpa here couldn’t stay up late enough to check it out, but to be fair, nightlife starts around 3-4am, and who can stay up that late?).

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TIPS:

  • Car: having one is a MUST.  If you really want to explore the city, make sure to rent one (thanks to the family for giving us their car for a week).
  • Money: unlike Argentina, everything is straight forward in Uruguay.  There is no blue market, you can get dollars and to make everything THAT much better, you get tax back as a tourist on the spot for food and other things (21%) if you use a visa/mastercard.  LOVE IT!
  • Running: if you like to run/exercise (which I don’t), this is the perfect spot to do so right along the coast line.  I ended up going for a run every night, mainly due to sheer guilt of sitting on our butts and eating (oh, and people are in amazing shape here).
  • Try mate tea: everyone and their mama and their infants are drinking hot mate tea.  They are so obsessed with it (Uruguay and Argentina) that you will see 10 year old kids carrying thermoses filled with hot water and their mate tea cup, drinking it all day long.  Kieran and I gave it a go and although it is super bitter, the taste does really grow on you and it’s supposed to help your digestion too!  Here is Kieran trying some:

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  • Stay away from big mansions as there are mean guard dogs on duty!  Can you find him?

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  • Also, stay away from busy streets with parked cars, or the following may happen:

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How DOES this happen to a parked car?  Please note, that this is the slowest driving town in all of S. America so far….

  • And lastly, no matter what, do not EVER buy crocs (apologies to those who own them)! To those who had no faith in my sense of fashion, these did not go home with me, but man, they were soooooo comfy!

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After 6 days, Kieran had to drag me onto the bus to go to Montevideo (capital of Uruguay). Although Montevideo has a few beaches as well, it is no Punta Del Este.  We decided to stay in Montevideo for 5 days while we figured out our next plan.  We rented an apartment via airbnb.com, where I cooked gourmet meals for Kieran (granola and yogurt) and did a lot of research and work on the blog.

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Per Kieran: a rare sighting

I will be honest, if I had a choice, I would have spent those 5 days in Punta as there is not much to do in Montevideo and it is a pretty dirty, port city.  However, we already had our bus tickets and we were planning a trip to Iguazu and Montevideo just happened to be on the way.

So, here are a few highlights…

  • Lots of meat was had…we discovered an AWESOME parilla (typical steakhouse in South America), called La Pulperia, if you are in Montevideo, this is a MUST! Cash only!
  • Brazil vs. Uruguay soccer game was a success (0-0).

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Per Kieran: this captures how Alina and Kieran watch football together…

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  • We ate LOTS of dessert.

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  • We saw a movie (Enigma – highly recommend) on a rainy day at the movie theatre with Spanish subtitles.
  • We took the “tourist” picture with the BIG sign!

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  • We put out fires…(we didn’t, but I really wanted to post this picture, because I thought it was pretty)

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  • and finally, we went to the MOST impressive airport that I have seen in S. America; well done, Montevideo!

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Next stop…Iguazu Falls…

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  • judy nishiyama

    What a superbly informative, humorous, matter-of-fact and ‘delicious’ post! Yes, I found Ms. Paloma and the ferocious guard dog! That dessert picture has suddenly made me crave cheesecake and coffee. It’s quite a ‘treat’ following you two around. Thanks for sharing. Take care, jn

    • Alina Basina

      Thanks for following, Judy! 🙂

  • Stephanie Cash

    So informative and entertaining! I look forward to reading every time! Thank you for sharing such an exciting adventure. Have fun!!

    • Alina

      Thank you, Stephanie. Hope all is well in your world and thank you for following!

    • Alina Basina

      Thank you, Stephanie. Hope all is well in your world and thank you for following!

  • Avideh

    You need to travel and write about it for a living. So detailed, so informative… sooo delicious haha. That vicious dog was adorable 🙂

    • Alina

      Avideh, I wish Four Seasons would let me write about them and put me up in their hotels for free 🙂 haha wishful thinking!

    • Alina Basina

      Avideh, I wish Four Seasons would let me write about them and put me up in their hotels for free …